Is it acceptable to kneel when I receive Holy Communion?
Perhaps you (all readers of this column) have noticed during your participation in the Mass in recent months that more and more people (especially youth) are choosing to fall to their knees when they arrive at the front of the line to receive Holy Communion. This action, reflective of long-time practice in the Church, when all churches utilized a communion rail at which people would kneel for the reception of Holy Communion, is clearly making a return in the individual practice of some believers. In this edition of “Pastor’s Ponderings,” I want to give some explanation of this practice and to speak to how our parish can rightly honor this custom for those who would prefer to kneel.
As mentioned already, the practice of kneeling to receive Holy Communion has long been a part of the life of the Church. While the Church has allowed people to stand for the reception of Holy Communion in more recent times, the option of kneeling to receive has always remained possible. In our own parish, the presence of the Extraordinary Form Latin Mass (the Mass from the Roman Missal of 1962) has perhaps been a way for some to be exposed to kneeling for Holy Communion, as such is the normative way to receive (acknowledging that any who are physically unable to kneel may stand over the kneeler). As a way of connecting the two forms of Mass, it is our custom to invite the people to kneel for Holy Communion at all of the 12:00 Sunday Masses, whether they be the 1962 Latin Mass or the Ordinary Form Mass in Latin.
The merit of this practice can be summed up quite simply by the word “receptivity.” When a person kneels to receive, they are accomplishing an external act that is capable of expressing the interior dispositions of “humility,” “reverence for God,” and “surrender.” All of these interior dispositions make one receptive to receiving from God what is only His to give: His own Body and Blood. While it can be said that such dispositions are also possible while standing, it goes without saying that the unique posture of kneeling in this moment has a power to more effectively facilitate such receptivity – as what other time do we go to this extent to kneel to receive or participate in any other thing, compared to how normal it is in life that we stand to receive from another/conduct business/etc.
That some are choosing this posture of kneeling therefore needs to be rightly acknowledged. However, since it remains acceptable to stand for Holy Communion, it is necessary that I (in consultation with the deacons and the extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion) rightly provide a way for each and all to receive Holy Communion in the manner of their own personal preference. Therefore, in the days to come (beginning on Monday, January 15), at every Mass a kneeler will be positioned near the places from which Holy Communion is administered so that any who would like to kneel can more easily do so. Likewise, any who prefer to stand will be able to stand before the minister as you are long accustomed to doing – as the kneeler will be positioned so as to not intrude on those who prefer to stand. In this way, each and all can receive Holy Communion in a preferred way.
As a final comment on this posture and my decision to offer a kneeler for any who prefer kneeling, I want to remind everyone that whether by kneeling or standing, ALL recipients of Holy Communion ought to be practicing the highest reverence in receiving. For He whom we receive is our Lord and God, our Savior and King, who deserves our most humble and sincere reverence.